Week ahead: Advocates plan new front in war over regs

A coalition of public interest groups will move this week to sharpen the push for stronger health and safety protections, launching a new effort aimed at increased enforcement of regulations currently on the books.

And, contrary to the claims of conservatives in Washington, the advocates say they have the public on their side.

The Enforcement Working Group, a new consortium including the Center for Effective Government, Public Citizen, the Economic Policy Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council, is preparing to unveil polling to support its case.

The survey concluded that the vast majority of voters favor increased enforcement of the regulations, challenging assertions from congressional Republicans and business groups that Americans view the accumulation of state and federal rules as “job-killing” red tape.

“With near unanimity, voters believe there should be increased enforcement of laws and regulations in the U.S.,” according to the telephone survey of 700 likely voters, conducted by the firm Lake Research Partners.

The poll could serve as powerful ammunition as the groups plan to ratchet up calls for Congress to provide agencies with the resources and power needed to enforce regulations.

“When it comes to enforcement, do agencies have authority to hold violators accountable? Sadly, the answer is often no,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen.

The effort goes beyond a long-simmering debate on the number and scope of regulations federal agencies have issued.

The groups will press for congressional action on two fronts. First, they’ll push appropriators to provide agencies with the funding needed to enforce their rules. Under current budgetary constraints, for instance, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is able to inspect workplaces roughly once a century, on average, Narang noted.

The coalition is also pressing lawmakers to empower agencies to take more meaningful action to penalize violators, including increased ability to pursue criminal cases. Again using the OSHA example, Narang said that the agency cannot levy more than a $70,000 fine for deaths linked to regulatory violations.

However, the push for sharper teeth at agencies is aimed more squarely at the financial industry, where few CEOs have been charged in connection with the economic crisis.

“The public is ready for jail time for corporate executives that engage in criminal activity,” Narang said.

The Heritage Foundation will take an opposing view in the regulatory debate on Tuesday, when House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteThe hidden controversy over online shopping Report: Investor visa program mainly funds wealthy areas FTC proposes reforms to crack down on patent trolls MORE (R-Va.) headlines a discussion at the conservative think tank focused on President Obama’s "imperial presidency." http://j.mp/1roPrUr

Heritage accuses Obama of not being "shy about circumventing Congress and essentially rewriting the laws."

"Time and again, President Obama has pushed the limits of this duty," the group wrote in promotion of the event.

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a meeting on its proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, looking at the connectivity between small streams and wetlands and larger bodies of water. http://j.mp/1t2sSD8

The Energy Department (DOE) has been one of the more active regulatory agencies under the Obama administration, issuing a swath of new efficiency standards for appliances. http://j.mp/1qCKlQG

Stronger efficiency standards for mobile homes and pre-rinse spray valves will be the focus of two separate DOE meetings next week.

The department has been pushing for more efficient manufactured or mobile homes since June. These homes are built in factories and then transported to a property where they are pieced together. http://j.mp/1qCL4Bm

Pre-rinse spray valves are commercial appliances used at restaurants to rinse off dishes before they are put in the dishwasher. The efficiency standards for these devices haven't been updated since 2005. http://j.mp/1rpUXrp

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies will take a closer look at fracking regulations with a discussion on Thursday about the controversial process of drilling for shale gas. http://j.mp/1utBSae


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